A blend of sound, remarkable musicianship
As season once again comes into full swing and tourists flock to Southwest Florida, visitors and residents alike can take advantage of the veritable embarrassment of riches that are to be enjoyed here, both indoors and out. Among the many delights offered to music-lovers at Sanibel’s BIG ARTS this season is a trio of instrumentalists whose collective sound proves to be as remarkable as the level of experience and musicianship they each bring to the stage (this year's concert is sold out, unfortunately). With its unconventional combination of oboe, viola and piano, Ensemble Schumann Oboist Thomas Gallant (left), pianist Sally Pinkas and violist Steve Larson are Ensemble Schumann. The trio's January concert at BIG ARTS is sold out. has been exhilarating audiences with the unusual and the unexpected for more than 10 years.
This particular combination of instruments has to be heard to be appreciated, of course. Oboist Thomas Gallant notes, "The fact that these instruments each produce a very unique sound is what makes the group special. This is not as in a string quartet, where there is more of a blend of sound. Here you have a very soulful viola sound, with a more strident oboe sound, paired with the many colors that a pianist can produce.”
Pianist Sally Pinkas elaborates: “The most interesting thing is the fact that nobody can hide―each instrument has a unique color, no two are alike.”
THE MOST INTERESTING THING IS THE FACT THAT NOBODY CAN HIDE— EACH INSTRUMENT HAS A UNIQUE COLOR, NO TWO ARE ALIKE.”
—PIANIST SALLY PINKAS
The trio's program naturally features music by the eponymous Schumann (Adagio and Allegro for viola and piano, Op. 70), as well as Mozart (the popular “Kegelstatt” Trio, K. 498) and Bruch (Eight Pieces, Op. 83). In the Mozart and Bruch pieces, the oboe takes the place of the clarinet, allowing for a fresh aural perspective on these works. Rounding out the recital is a novelty: the Op. 28 Schilflieder (“Reed Songs”) by August Klughardt, a German composer who was in the musical orbit of Liszt and Wagner. The work’s five movements are based on a set of poems by Nikolaus Lenau, telling of the sadness of lost love as the poet wanders at the edge of a reed-filled pond. Notes Pinkas: “It is quite an over-the-top, emotional work, clearly indebted to the great contemporary romantic composers of Klughardt’s time. For the piano, it is a tour de force.”
The Ensemble is now enjoying the benefits of having performed together for over a decade. “One of the great things is the freedom,” observes violist Steve Larson. “We’ve gotten to know each other’s playing, we’ve gotten to know how to communicate with each other, and it allows us to take interpretive risks on stage and vary our interpretation from performance to performance.”
And perhaps most importantly, as Gallant points out, “We have great chemistry together.”
Pianist, instructor and musicologist Erik Entwistle received an undergraduate degree in music from Dartmouth College. He earned a post-graduate degree in piano performance at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his doctorate in musicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He teaches on Sanibel.